Voices of IIN is our newest content series, where we’ll talk with IIN students, graduates, and staff members who make up our diverse, vibrant, and passionate community. IIN’s commitment to making the world a healthier and happier place is what brings us all together, and we aim to celebrate this commitment by sharing the unique stories and backgrounds of IIN change makers. Through this series, we hope to continue working toward creating a more inclusive wellness community, where all feel welcome to create a healthier life.
Annette Alfieri, IIN HCTP September 2015 graduate, and Jill Bauman, IIN HCTP March 2020 graduate, are both members of the IIN sales team. Passionate about wellness and living by example for their families and clients, Annette and Jill are two women over 50 who want to emphasize that age is just a number and life can open many exciting doors during this stage. They sat down with the IIN blog team to chat about how they found IIN, why they think health coaching is so important, and how the wellness industry can work to become more inclusive of women (and all people) over the age of 50.
How did you find IIN? What inspired you to want to work at IIN?
Jill: I attended Columbia for my master’s in applied exercise physiology and have always been involved in the fitness and wellness industry in some way. I’ve also always known about IIN – I remember once actually seeing those who attended a live conference gathered outside Lincoln Center in New York City. I had always wanted to do the program, and it finally came full circle when I started working with IIN in February 2020, right before the height of the pandemic.
IIN really connected all the dots in my personal wellness journey. I was previously at Canyon Ranch, a luxury wellness resort company, where we were selling a lifestyle and personal transformation. I realized that with health coaching, you could do the same thing but impact so many more lives in the process.
Annette: I have my master’s in human nutrition, and it hit me as I was completing my degree that there really was a difference between holistic health and nutrition and clinical health and nutrition. I started doing my own research, seeking out people who also had this holistic mind-set, and ended up finding IIN!
Similar to Jill’s story, I applied for a job with IIN before enrolling in the program – actually, I applied three times because that’s how passionate I was about working with the school! Finally in 2015, I came to work with IIN and enrolled in the program. I was able to utilize everything in my background – from sales to nutrition – to make a difference and help enroll students in this amazing program.
Perspectives on Nutrition and Health Coaching
What does being a Health Coach mean to you?
Annette: There’s a clear disconnect between health professionals and their patients – if there wasn’t, we wouldn’t be experiencing this phenomenon of chronic disease continuing to rise despite our knowledge of how to prevent them! Health Coaches come in to resolve the disconnect, allowing people to move forward with diet and lifestyle changes.
I find in my own coaching that many people can’t follow dietary protocols because they are out of their comfort zone, whether they’re too different from what people are used to or people are scared and anxious, which is normal. My philosophy is, “If you can’t do it for the long haul, don’t do it.” I aim to empower my clients to live their lives in healthier ways, finding the perfect combination for them. It’s not about what’s trendy or what I think is best. I’m there to provide accountability and support. I tell my clients, “If you know better, you do better.” And I help them gain that knowledge to do better.
Jill: Yes. There’s a clear disconnect between what people hear from their doctors and what they end up doing with those recommendations. In my experience, many people end up at the gym and don’t know what to do from there. Exercise is certainly one piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the entire puzzle. Health Coaches help people sort through and make sense of those recommendations and – exactly what Annette said – provide clients with accountability, support, and the confidence boost they may need to actually enact change.
Why do you feel Health Coaches are so needed today?
Jill: I think one of the most important things Health Coaches do is help clients sort through information! In our age of social media, influencers are considered the go-to experts, and it can be overwhelming if you’re a follower of one of these influencers but don’t have any background to know what’s right and wrong. Influencers certainly can be experts if they have particular degrees or certifications, but their advice is often aimed at a large audience that may not have a strong health and wellness foundation.
I see Health Coaches as the voice of reason – that middle ground between the “good” and “bad.” I have always said you don’t have to go from zero to hero, meaning you don’t have to make drastic changes and you don’t have to make them overnight, because that’s not sustainable.
Annette: Absolutely. We live in a world where many people are becoming much more health conscious, especially influencers on social media. I often remind myself that what I take as common knowledge is actually mind-blowing to some people, especially new clients. There are these things that I might take for granted, such as how good my body feels eating a certain way, that other people won’t understand unless they experience it for themselves. And they will experience it little by little as they transform over time, which is where Health Coaches come in to support them.
Nutrition, Healthcare, and Equity in the Wellness Field
Women in their 50s and 60s are often empty nesters and realize they have time to dedicate to exploring who they are, how they can improve their health, and how to focus on personal growth. Why do you think this particular stage of life is so important when it comes to exploring health?
Annette: This definitely resonates with me. I don’t see certain ages as a chapter or that there's a hard ending or beginning to one stage – it’s really a continuum. We are living much longer lives and people like Jill and me have a desire to be healthy, strong, and vibrant well into our older years. I can remember my grandmother, who just seemed so much older than she actually was. She never exercised and wasn’t as health conscious as I’d consider myself. I’ve realized that our mind-set is so drastically different from that of our parents and grandparents.
When it comes to this exploration of life and health during this time, many people, especially women, want to retire into something their passionate about. They’re thinking, “What will my legacy be?” Women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are getting more fit than they ever were when they were in their 20s and 30s. We’re thinking, “We’re going to be those supercool fit grandparents!”
I find that many women coming to IIN in their 40s, 50s, and 60s had a health issue that set them up for making this realization and decision to enroll. And others always had the passion, but now actually have the time.
Jill: Many women find that after raising children they have a lot more time to focus on themselves and want to do something just for them. When reflecting on what they want to do, often they realize they want to help people and coaching utilizes their nurturing skills available now that their kids are grown.
The pandemic accelerated the transition into this period for many women, giving them space to reflect on what it is they want to do, and many landed at IIN. Bloomberg reported that 2.7 million Americans aged 55+ are contemplating retirement years earlier than they’d imagined because of the pandemic.
Annette was spot-on in her evaluation of our generation – our mind-set is totally different from that of our parents and grandparents, and it’s rubbing off on the younger generation. My daughters talk about self-care often, and that’s definitely a product of the times but also a result of my dedication to my wellness journey.
You are both passionate about helping women who seem to be invisible when it comes to wellness marketing – women are often shown on either end of the age spectrum but are not represented in the “in-between” years, which can be incredibly vibrant and transformative for so many women. Can you speak to how wellness can become more inclusive in this respect?
Jill: I think we’re moving in the right direction with the wellness industry becoming more inclusive as it relates to age, but I also think it’s getting wrapped up in the body positivity and diversity wellness movements. For example, I’ve noticed the Athleta clothing brand displays not only an awareness in their imagery, but a conscious attempt to show real women in this age group. Along with showing larger mannequins in their windows, they’re showing women in the 50+ age demographic being active.
The baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) has been a big impetus for change, which is consequently driving this shift in my demographic of 50+ women. Women in this generation have been breaking the mold, which Annette can speak to…
Annette: Yes! So many women in that generation have been breaking the mold for what’s possible in their careers as well as redefining what it means to “age,” like Bobbi Brown (an IIN grad!). I agree with Jill about seeing more women in fitness marketing that highlights a variety of ages, not just ones with silver hair! I also agree about the coinciding of age inclusivity with other inclusivity movements, such as companies committing to not retouching their photography to show real women and their bodies. It’s so important.
As Jill mentioned before, the pandemic accelerated a lot of changes in our lives, including the desire to make healthy lifestyle changes that aren’t just for “young” people! Anyone at any age can start making positive changes in their lives. In my head, I’m still in my 20s!
What kinds of gaps in wellness and healthcare, in your experience, need to be filled for women in this age bracket? How do Health Coaches potentially fit in?
Jill: During this stage in life, the value of community is severely understated. For many women, raising a family consumed a substantial portion of their adult lives, and if they’re now empty nesters, immediate family may not be the best or best-available community for support. It’s crucial for women to find additional community, whether with friends, coworkers, or through meetup groups focused on shared interests. In addition to finding community, nutrition and exercise are also key during this phase.
Our nutritional needs change as we get older, which impact our physical activity needs, and I don’t think this is discussed enough. We hear about menopause and the hormonal havoc it can wreak often, but the discussion stops there. Did you know that by 2025, 1.1 billion women are expected to be postmenopausal? According to the Female Founders Fund, “the space represents $600 billion of spending opportunity but is still largely untapped by startups and brands that could be creating new products and services for these women!”
I believe health coaching fits in here because Health Coaches can impact generational thinking and behavior as well as provide women with much-needed support during an important transitional time in their lives.
Annette: Wow, that’s an incredible stat!
In general, our generation is getting wiser, and less people are opting out of medication to treat lifestyle diseases. We’re exploring different modalities, adjusting our diets, and even working with Health Coaches. For people who weren’t always thinking about health, it’s at this age they start to realize that things are “falling apart" more.
I truly believe 50+ is a prime stage to become a Health Coach! People will seek me out for my age – even younger people – because they want someone with experience who has been through what they’re going through. We are an aging population, and we are also not getting healthier – Health Coaches have to be out there in full force!
Commitment to Making a Positive Impact
IIN’s mission on our website and in our curriculum is to play a crucial role in improving health and happiness and, through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world. Tell us about an impactful “spreading the ripple effect” experience – whether with a client, friend, family member, or even a stranger.
Jill: I left the hospitality industry right before I worked with IIN, and then the pandemic hit, so many former colleagues who were furloughed asked me about IIN and then enrolled as students! Hospitality can take a toll on your body, physically while traveling without being able to prepare your own foods and also emotionally. I coached a few women recently who ended up making dramatic changes in their lives. One was not eating healthily and was eating out often, but now she’s a regular at her farmers’ market and loves posting pictures of the vegetables she’s eating! Another adopted a plant-based diet, reduced her alcohol consumption, and lost 15 pounds.
Annette: I don’t have one experience in particular to call out, but based on my years coaching and working with IIN, I think everyone should take the course – I consider it a prerequisite for life. Everyone can do better in some way and change the trajectory of the person they'll become.
I aim to live by example, and I try to incorporate my learnings into everything I do, and everyone wants to have that same energy. When people call IIN, they have a dream to create something, and it’s our job to walk them to that. That’s how I feel every time I talk to someone.
When I talk to someone older (they often don’t know my age!), they’ll say, “Well, I’m not young. Can I take this program?” and I convey to them that we all have opportunities to evolve and the program will still be transformational for them.
Annette Alfieri: Annette has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Using a combination of motivation, mind-set, awareness, and nutrition, Annette is able to empower clients to create a smart, sustainable lifestyle that supports a healthy weight and brighter outlook. On her Instagram @annette.alfieri.ageundefined, Annette is a pro-aging advocate who inspires people of all ages to live their best lives. An energetic teacher, compassionate coach, and motivator, she is a popular speaker in organizations, companies, and schools.
Jill Bauman: Jill has a master’s degree in applied physiology and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and 200-hour certified yoga teacher. Jill is a lifelong wellness and fitness enthusiast, combining passion with career. She has an integrative approach, utilizing her yoga and meditation background with daily gym time and walks in nature. She is grateful to spend every day with a passionate group of admissions advisors spreading the ripple effect in the world. Find her on Instagram @jill__bauman or on Facebook.